How Strong Is the American Navy?

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Mitt Romney says the American Navy is smaller than it was in 1916. In a naive ship-counting sense, where big ships and small ships all carry the same weight, that might be true. But what really matters is relative strength: how powerful is the U.S. Navy compared to all the rest of the navies of the world? Over at the Monkey Cage, Brian Crisher and Mark Souva summarize a dataset they created earlier this year that estimates the naval power of various countries from 1865 through 2011. The chart on the right is taken from their data.

So how are we doing? In 1916, America controlled about 11 percent of the world’s naval power. In 2010, we controlled about 50 percent. We may have fewer ships than we did during World War I, but we carry a way bigger stick than we did back then. Measured in the only way that makes sense, American naval strength today is greater than it’s ever been in history.

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